Tuesday, July 24, 2012

9 months!

This is the first celebration of Zoe's birth that she's been home for.

We didn't even know she existed until after her first, second, and third month birthdays had passed.

We hoped we'd have her home before her seventh or eighth month birthdays happened, but that didn't work out.

So today, her nine month birthday, is special to me. It's the first celebration of her birth in which we've all been together.

She has decided she loves her minky, just like big sister. (And, no, that's not big sister's minky, but our friend Heather used the same fabric... after Jocelyn saw it in a fabric bin while she was staying with Aunt Heather and Uncle Neal while we were in Taiwan. As soon as big sis saw it, Heather wasn't given a choice about Zoe's silky side.)

You would have to know where her IV had been in her feet to find the faint scars now. She was in and out of the hospital lots - including one long stay in June and another in July - and needed more than one IV each time because the first one came out, so she also has some faint IV scars on her hands.

She only has one mongolian spot. What's that, you say? Well, see that spot that looks like a faint bruise in the top right corner of the picture above? It's a kind of birthmark that a lot of Asian babies have. They often occur on babies' bottoms, so parents of children with big or otherwise obvious spots have to have them documented by a pediatrician to avoid allegations of abuse by childcare workers who (rightfully) question what looks like widespread bruising.

She's teething. Hardcore. I can feel several bumps in there during the frequent moments when she uses my fingers as teething toys. (Teething toys, though? Not interested.)

She will, however, chew on her paci and even turn it sideways, as in the picture above, to do so more aggressively.

She is a super sleeper, going for 10-12 hour stretches at night (with an occasional whimper for us to put her pacifier back in, but she sleeps through that) and then napping a couple times a day for 1-2 hours each. Except for today, when the teething pain made it two catnaps in the morning and one (hopefully long) nap in the afternoon, which just began twenty minutes ago.

She likes the crib just fine, but otherwise she does not think she should ever be put down. She'll accept it - though not happily - if she can see people nearby, but we're doing well if we can get to stay content for 15 minutes in a swing, bouncy seat, or Bumbo before she is done. All this holding has helped her bond to us quickly, though, so it's a blessing! (Plus she is decidedly pro-carrier - namely our Peanut Shell pouch sling or our Ergo - which helps.)

She loves her siblings, tolerates the dog, is intrigued by the cat, and has settled into the household quite well.

Oh, and oddly enough our sweet girl from a warm climate hates heat. We'll see come winter how she feels about cold.

Happy nine months, sweet Zoe Amanda!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

potential special needs diagnoses for our Zoe girl

The diagnoses we're working through for our girl are ASD and PVL.

(No, not Autism Spectrum Disorder... the other ASD: Atrial Septal Defect. And PVL? That's periventricular leukomalacia. Mad props to me for being able to spell that without help this time!)

So what does that mean? Well, in simplest terms, she has small hole-like areas of damage in her brain and a hole in her heart, if her medical records from Taiwan are accurate (and we have no reason to question them at this point). Neither seem to be causing any immediate medical problems, but we may be looking at therapies and surgeries and more specialist appointments to give her the best outcomes possible, and we'll keep y'all posted as we walk that path.

A sweet woman at church on Sunday - a woman who I had seen before but never spoken to in length - oohed and aahed over Zoe. She asked her name, and her county, and the number of days we had been home. Every question was genuine and well-intentioned, if not always tactful.

And then the big question came: And she's healthy?

We've had Zoe for less than a week, but it's been long enough for me to catch on that this sweet woman thought she knew the answer. Zoe is breathtakingly beautiful and loves watching the world around her. People have actually said, "Are you sure she has special needs? She looks too pretty," as if disability and beauty can't coexist. I could have just said, "yes, she's healthy," like she expected, and that answer would have been partially honest, because she is so much healthier now than she was when we met her in the cramped Taiwanese hospital prayer room exact one week ago.

I forced the full truth, as we know it, out instead: "Well, she was a preemie, and MRIs shows areas of brain injury, and her heart might have a defect. We're sorting through all of that."

She kept saying, "WOW," over and over, and then added, "and you took all that on?"

I didn't know what to say, so I just nodded.

To us, we're getting Zoe. I guess that means we're taking all that - ASD and PVL and any other alphabet soup that comes our way - on. We do, after all, have a cardiology appointment on the books (August 2) and a neurology one a'coming (update: it's August 2 as well), but that's just the reality of getting to parent our precious baby girl.

Getting to. It's a privilege.

We're not superheroes or martyrs or saviors in doing this. We may have been obedient in responding to God's call for us to adopt, but we are disobedient in a hundred different ways each day. The rough day we had a couple days ago was more the result of our sin than the challenges of transition. Yesterday, I ate the remnants of a bag of Doritos for breakfast and washed it down with a Diet Coke. I've been opting to watch Dawson's Creek on Netflix instead of unpacking, so most of our bags are still piled on the floor of our bedroom. We returned home last Thursday morning, and I've only had two showers - maybe three? - since then. (It's even grosser when you consider that our big kids have had a stomach bug this week, so try not to think about that.) Earlier today, I considered going to Wal-Mart to buy more underwear so that I could put off the laundry for another day. Later today, as I rest in bed with my turn with the stomach bug, I'll be catching up on my trashy TV by watching The Bachelorette: The Men Tell All on Hulu (and still not unpacking).

In other words, we're not perfect. 

We're just riding this wild ride God set us on in parenting our two homegrown kiddos and our one Taiwanese treasure. Thanks for continuing to pray for us.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

adoption has affected our biological children.

That was the worry of one of our family members, who often asked, How will Jocelyn and Robbie fare with the arrival of a new child with her own set of needs? The way she asked wasn't expressing nice concern; it was dripping with contempt for the crazy idea she thought we might abandon if only she could get us to think about it a little more.

She was right, at least in part.

Adoption has affected our biological children.

They longed for their sister as they waited in anticipation for her to come home.

They shared in excitement with friends

and learned that our family of loved ones is much bigger than biology and paperwork.

They keep praying without ceasing for God to heal the boo-boos on Zoe's brain so that she can walk and run with them,

and they have planned for what changes we might need to make to include their little sister if God has decided it will be better for her mobility to be limited on earth.

They loved a stranger turned sister from the moment they heard about her, even though she lived in a children's home on the other side of the world.

They ask me to print off pictures of other orphans, so that they can pray for them and their families - if they have them - by name.


They've started saving money to give to the ministry that cared for Zoe until we arrived and to give to other families who are adopting.

They tell other people about the beauty of adoption.

They now know about that small island country off the coast of China and cut out shapes of Taiwan "so that Zoe will never forget where she came from."

They make room in their hearts and around our table for a girl who once lacked a family.

They are understanding the gospel in new ways, as our oldest can explain that we adopt because God first adopted us as His children through Christ's sacrifice on the cross.

Yes, adoption has affected our biological children,

and I'm more than okay with that.

Many thanks to my friends Heather and Vallory who posted the amazing pictures of our homecoming that I've included in this post! And thanks also to Rachel and Dad Dingle and Rebecca for documenting it in pictures and video, as well as to Jenelle for capturing it in words and metaphors... so thankful Zoe will have a sweet record of her enthusiastic welcome, thanks to each of you!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

bone tired. and blessed.

I'm calling today a success:

two kids who woke up to vomit in the middle of night, one who recovered before morning.

so she'll be able to return to summer day camp tomorrow, thank goodness.

one who kept down just enough to avoid an ER visit and not enough to keep me from constant prayer for his health.

which might have been God's intent anyway. as a wise friend once said, "anything that brings you to your knees in prayer is a blessing."

one child fed 23 ounces via bottles from Daddy.

which is 3 ounces more than the minimum we're aiming for.

she is eating.

and as much as i love the part about exceeding her minimum ounces for the day, the part that makes me verklempt is "from Daddy."

one daddy who brought his baby to work to protect her from the germies here.

one mommy who survived with encouragement on Facebook, a Starbucks run from a friend (along with some Gatorade, stickers, and coloring pages for the sick ones), a gift of dresses for Zoe from our next-door neighbors (who are determined to spoil her rotten... which I'm okay with), a meal from the freezer from a friend that fed us tonight, the offer of three meals to help sustain our family in nights to come, and the confirmation that Zoe will be seeing the same cardiologist that two of our little friends have seen and loved in the past.

I'm experiencing a deeper sort of exhaustion than I've ever known, but it's a good sort of bone tired.

Because you know what?

Adoption is hard.

But want to know what's harder? Parenting.

Both are worth it, though. Both make the bone tired feeling a good one as I collapse into bed.

I'll call today a win and thank God for it.

Monday, July 16, 2012

our journey, in Facebook status updates...

I planned to blog while in Taiwan, but I did more micro-blogging via status messages than actual blogging, so as a way to capture those moments here, I thought it might work best to give a journey via Facebook:

June 30
Putting away laundry and packing bags for FIVE Dingles!

If you haven't already, please take a moment to like The Archibald Project. Pictures of our journey to Zoe will be posted there, plus they are a wonderful non-profit with a heart for Christ.

I'm certain I have overpacked for Zoe. My excuses are, in Steve Saunders numbering style,
A) baby clothes are little,
2) I'm not 100% sure what size is best, so I need to cover a couple possibilities, and
d) I'm excited to be leaving for Taiwan in a few days to bring her home!

July 1
What's your guess for the number of times I'll try to speak to someone in Spanish when we're in Taiwan? (Hi, my name is Shannon, and I suffer from a condition known as TSAFLHSIDTTOIKEIINTOTS, or they-speak-a-foreign-language-here-so-I'll-default-to-the-one-I-know-even-if-it's-not-the-one-they-speak.)

Zoe is in the hospital, mostly as a precaution because she was born so premature (bad cough, some tummy upset). Please pray for her health, and pray also that I will be over my cold and sinus infection completely before we travel, so that I won't bring any foreign germs to her while she's recovering!

July 2
Have I mentioned that we're leaving tomorrow for Taiwan to bring our baby girl home? Oh, I have? Okay, just checking.

Plane reading suggestions... go! 
(If it helps, looking for light fiction. Not much of a Christian fiction fan.
Already planning to read: The Help. 
Would gouge my eyes out before reading: 50 Shade of Grey.)

July 3
Lee: Are you sure that isn't too many shirts for me to bring? [referring to the stack I picked out for him]
Me: Um, we'll have a baby. Who poops. And pees. And spits up.
Lee: Hmm. I hadn't thought about that.

Gave up on the plan to sleep during the day because we're too excited... so one last date at Jubala before we leave!

First flight, Raleigh to NYC. Let's do this.

Three more hours 'til we board the plane to Taipei!

July 5
We're in Taipei!!! Unfortunately, the suitcase with the majority of my clothes and Zoe's clothes is lost somewhere in NYC, and we're hoping they find it for it to arrive here tomorrow and then get to us in Taitung tomorrow afternoon. Zoe is still in the hospital, so that's probably where we'll be united in just a few hours once we take our domestic flight to her city. Excited, even in the midst of minor problems like this!

Sweet Zoe is in the hospital still - upper respiratory infection plus not eating well so getting IV nutrition - but we got to hold her for a few precious hours this afternoon. My heart aches a bit to be back here in the hotel without her, but we get to spend the day at the hospital with her tomorrow again and then she should be released on Saturday before lunchtime. Love our precious daughter!!! (Pictures coming soon from our friends at The Archibald Project... but now I'm heading to bed, considering that I haven't been in one in more than 48 hours.)

Praying my suitcase will arrive by tomorrow, but if it doesn't, I'm thankful that we have street vendors nearby who sell underwear. (Add that to the list of things I never thought I'd say...)

July 6
Wide awake right now, even though it's 2am here. In my exhaustion last night, I forgot to mention that Zoe fell asleep and slept in my arms during the hours we got to hold her yesterday. Precious, precious moments!

Elevator safety guide

The first four pictures post from The Archibald Project
"love at first sight"

"such a beautiful face"

"checking out papa bear"

(More pictures from The Archibald Project can be found here, here, and here.)

I'll be blogging soon with more details, but please pray that a minor issue with our paperwork gets resolved. A typo in the courts - listing Zoe as a boy in one place rather than a girl - has to be corrected before we can leave Taitung. We were supposed to fly out of Taitung to Taipei on Sunday, and now - as long as the change can be made Monday morning - that's pushed back a day. We have to be at our visa appointment in Taipei on Tuesday afternoon. So thankful that God is giving us a peace about all this that can only come from Him! We're not anxious, but we'd appreciate your prayers about the logistics.

In other news, Zoe is still in the hospital, hopefully being discharged tomorrow, and my suitcase is supposed to arrive tomorrow as well!

Tomorrow's the day to spring our baby girl from the hospital!!! 
(Also, friends, many have asked, so I'll just answer publicly: yes, please, feel free to share our pictures on your Facebook page if you'd like or to direct people to The Archibald Project page to see them! )

July 7
Guess who's getting out of the hospital soon?!?

You know what's awesome? The guy from Taitung who runs the amazing dumpling place down the street from our hotel lived in Bolivia for five years, so I can order in Spanish. 
You know what's even more awesome? Zoe is asleep in our hotel room. Nope, not the hospital. Our baby girl is with us.

In our hotel room

As we go to bed in our hotel room for the first night as Mommy and Daddy and Zoe, a woman who is precious to us is going to bed in her own bed for the first time in a week. As Zoe's nanny, she's been sleeping on a bench next to Zoe's hospital bed for the past five days, and she and her family wholeheartedly love our girl and sweetly cared for her like their own until we got here. Please pray for this dear woman, as this night of joy for us is a bittersweet one for her.

July 8
I've been up since 4:45am (jetlag hasn't been bad, except that I wake up early each morning), but Lee and Zoe are still snoozing. Our sweet girl didn't wake up once during the night, and this morning we get to worship with our missionary friends here - so very, very thankful!

July 9
It's Monday morning now here: Please pray that the courts will be able to fix their error in paperwork early today. The court officials are saying it can't be done until later this week, but we are scheduled to be in Taipei for Zoe's visa appointment at AIT tomorrow afternoon. If we miss that appointment, we will probably have to change our flight out of Taipei (currently planned for Wednesday evening) because her visa won't be ready.

Please pray that feeding times would go more smoothly. Having IV nutrition for a week before we got her has her resisting bottles, so this is how we're having to feed her for now, 2ml at a time from a syringe (as a reference point, there are about 30 ml in an ounce, so it takes a while!). Thankful that we've figured out a way to get her the nutrition she needs!
photo taken by the wonderful folks at The Archibald Project

Why, yes, we have been watching an American baseball game (Yankees and Red Sox) with Chinese commentators as we wait on news about our paperwork.

Heading out to lunch. No news yet on paperwork, but our friends here know where to find us if any news comes before we're back!

On Thursday, we were getting on a plane for a three day trip to Taitung to meet Zoe and bring her home. Now, four days later, we're still in Taitung, awaiting the resolution of a paperwork problem (a typo made by a court clerk in Taiwan) before we can depart. No news yet - please keeping praying! If we can't leave Taitung by tomorrow at 9:40am (which is Monday at 9:40pm Eastern time), then we'll have to reschedule Zoe's visa appointment and pay to change our flight to the US to a later date.
photo courtesy of The Archibald Project

I know most of you are sleeping right now, but if you're up (or when you see this, if I haven't updated yet), pray for a quick resolution to our paperwork problems. If we can't leave on our scheduled flight, it looks like it will cost us a whole lot of money to change flights, so we're praying for a miracle so that we can keep our current itinerary!

We are flying out of Taitung tomorrow morning, just in time to make it to our visa appointment in Taipei the afternoon! So thankful that the details got sorted out!!!

Love that the garbage truck here sounds like an ice cream truck!

July 10
For those of you interested, available, and in town, several friends and family members are meeting us at the airport in Raleigh at Terminal 2 baggage claim when we return. Our flight is United Airlines 3536 from Chicago, arriving at 9:30am on July 12. If anything changes, we'll post an update on Facebook.

We're safely in Taipei! Soon, we'll head out to lunch and then to pick up translations of our corrected documents, and then to Zoe's visa appointment at AIT, and then to the hospital to pick up her immigration physical documentation, and then back to AIT to bring them her physical (and then back to AIT tomorrow to pick up her visa). All that before dinner in a city we don't know!

Posted by our friends from  The Archibald Project :
Saying goodbye to the Dingles in Taipei. So thankful and blessed to have been apart of their adoption journey!

It seems that I am hilarious.

Today at Zoe's visa appointment, we had to sign a special needs waiver stating that we understood that our daughter may be "brain damaged" and "mentally retarded." The woman handled it gently, explaining that they had to be sure that we were willing to parent her even if that's the reality, because some parents in the past had returned their adopted children due to special needs. 
We don't know to what extent her brain injury will affect her, but I can tell you one thing: they would have to fight me to get her back, no matter what her outcomes may be.
(Plus this comment I added to that status: God didn't adopt me as His child because of what I could achieve, but because of what He had already achieved through Christ's life, death, and resurrection; likewise, we aren't adopting Zoe because of what she can do, but because we love her and love God.)

See this girl? She just drank 4oz from a bottle. 
This, my friends, is a really, really big deal. 
(*Thanks to The Archibald Project for the picture below!*)

Well, hi, Taipei 101. (The view from our hotel room)

July 11
Why, yes, those are controls for the Toto Washlet (i.e. our hotel toilet).

Just woke up from my last sleep before we depart. We'll have an overnight plane ride, but the next bed I sleep in will be my own!!!

On today's agenda (it's July 11 at 5:30am here): 
visit Taipei 101 (including world-famous dumplings and another go-round with the cotton candy espresso ice cream we had last night), go to AIT to pick up Zoe's visa, meander around the Taiwan Handicraft Promotion Center, return to the hotel to pack our bags to fit any extra stuff, go to dinner, take a cab to the airport, fly out at 11:30pm from Taipei, arrive at 8:10pm in San Francisco (thank you, time change, for making life interesting), and fly out of San Francisco at 10:48pm. (Then on July 12, arrive in Chicago at 5am and depart at 6:30am to arrive in Raleigh at 9:30am. Methinks we'll be a bit tired.)

We'll be heading to the airport soon! It's been a long day - a bunch of stores to find an extra bag to bring items back, Taiwan Handicraft Market, AIT for Zoe's visa, Din Tai Fung for world-famous dumplings, Taipei 101 (where I almost revisited the dumplings - the speed of that elevator is no joke and messed with my head and stomach),... and it's not over yet! Due to the flight and time change, July 11 will technically be more than 38 hours long for us, given that it started in Taiwan's time zone and will end in San Francisco. Praying for sweet rest for all of us on the plane, and thankful for bassinets provided for babies in air!

Cannot wait to be with all three of my children in one place in about 26 hours!

Hello, USA!

We should be able to make it back to Raleigh at 9:30 on July 12 as planned, but due to delays in San Francisco, we'll be cutting it very close in Chicago. I'll post if we miss the Chicago flight, but our transfer may be too tight to update if we make it, in which case no news is good news. :)

July 12
We're boarding now on our flight to Raleigh!

Home. ♥

First pediatrician appointment: success! The virus that kept her in the hospital last week has cleared up completely, and her thrush is much better but not completely gone; the doctor is hopeful that our feeding issues are related to that and will improve once we get her healthier. We have referrals in for neurology for her brain injury and cardiology for her possible heart defect (which we found out about in Taiwan)... and now we're resting at home!

All the little Dingles are snug and asleep in their beds, and us big Dingles are heading that way too! First time in bed in 52 hours (except for two brief naps for me today). On the agenda tomorrow: feed everyone in the family. dispense medicine as needed. cuddle. read books with the kids. watch some tv. possibly stay in our pjs all day.

July 13
Hi, jet lag. Thankful that it's just me and you hanging out, while Lee and Zoe seem to be ignoring you and sleeping just fine!

Zoe's first morning bottle at home was also the first bottle she has taken without a fight since we met her. So thankful that her mouth is healing so that she can eat well!

Many of you have asked if you could bring us a meal or help out with the older kiddos when we have doctor's appointments for Zoe. Here's a website our friend Vallory set up for that purpose:https://www.lotsahelpinghands.com/c/659819/login/reset/2aeaffb7e3fb86fce23c1cf2779dae18/ I think you have to sign up for the site with your email and a password, but then you should be good to go! (If you have any problems, let me know, and I can check with Val.) She has only listed meals at this time, because we don't have any doctor's appointments scheduled for Zoe yet. 

Overheard this morning while Zoe napped:
"Mommy, I really miss Zoe. I like playing with her."

Overheard today:
"Daddy, why is Zoe staying here?" (Perhaps we didn't explain adoption so well to Robbie.)
"Robbie, she isn't a baby doll. She's real."

July 14
The good news is that I'm feeling rested, wide awake, and industrious as I'm cleaning and unpacking and doing laundry.
The bad news? It's 2am. 
This burst of productivity brought to you by my friend jet lag.

So any tips for dealing with jet lag, asks the girl who stayed up all night because her body thinks it's still in Taiwan.

If anyone else has a hankering for afternoon coffee or for Taiwanese baby goodness (or a need to get far away from their bed so that they don't succumb to the desire to nap and ruin any chance of recovering from jet lag... oh, that's just me?), my littlest one and I are about to head to Jubala and will probably be there from 2-3:30. :)

July 15
I'm awake (of course) and so excited to join our family of faith at Providence Baptist Church this morning to worship as a family of FIVE!

July 16
I've tried to be transparent through the whole adoption process, so I'm just going to lay this out there: the past couple of hours have been the hardest ones yet. Feeding issues and exhaustion and two kids who need more from us than we can give right now (thankfully, Jocelyn is at New Life Camp during the week)... we're spent. Pray for us.

Snuggling with a baby girl and a big boy while watching Spider-Man cartoons. ♥